Voigtlander Vitomatic ii: from paperweight to household heirloom


Dad was a current faculty graduate in 1958. He knew with Vietnam heating up, and along with his faculty days behind him, he would both be drafted into the navy and go God is aware of the place; or, he might enlist and apply for Officers Candidate Faculty. Dad selected the US Navy, and was accepted to OCS.

Quick ahead to 1959, and Dad is on the USS Polk County, an LST or Touchdown Ship Tank. He jokingly suggests “LST actually stood for Lengthy Sluggish Goal.” Whereas on shore go away in both Sasebo Japan, or Hong Kong (it was over sixty years in the past), dad purchased this Voigtlander Vitomatic II digicam. Cannonball Adderly launched his “Issues Are Getting Higher” album that yr. Dad, a jazz fan, would’ve possible been rocking out to “Groovin’ Excessive” when he loaded his first roll of Kodachrome. The digicam can be his companion for years, touring the world round his neck.

I had used the factor a bit in my Excessive Faculty images class within the mid-eighties. It’s stout, compact, and properly made. However, practically sixty 5 years since new, it wanted some consideration. Not too long ago rediscovering movie images, I’d already collected Dad’s Nikon FM in addition to his Pentax 645. Each wanted a good quantity of labor to get again to their former glory. Alongside the way in which, I acquired a good friend’s Nikon FE; and extra just lately a 1965 Leica M3.

The Voigtlander sat on my digicam shelf largely ignored since my native digicam store had pronounced its non-operable rangefinder and caught focusing ring “unrepairable.” I found Radu Lesaru whereas studying concerning the problem discovering movie digicam restore consultants; significantly, these whose experience contains esoteric rangefinders from the fifties and sixties. Responding to my request for assist, Radu requested for some images of the digicam. I used to be elated when he mentioned he might repair it. Even a six to eight month wait wouldn’t deter me, because the digicam has been sitting ineffective for years. My coronary heart sank when Radu reached out to let me know the focusing ring was jammed and never repairable and that the rangefinder mechanism was busted. My unhappiness on the digicam’s sorry state and the unavailability of substitute elements was changed with optimism when Lesaru instructed me he might purchase elements cameras on EBay for as little as $40-60.

Two donor cameras were required to make Dad's whole again.

A couple of week later, I received an e-mail from Radu merely stating “Your digicam is finished.” The week I spent ready for the digicam to reach was full of pleasure as I tracked the bundle’s cross-country journey each day.

Opening the fastidiously packed transport field, I couldn’t imagine how nice the digicam regarded. The focusing ring turned simply with simply the correct quantity of mechanical resistance. And, most significantly, the beforehand non-operational rangefinder was shiny and clear and straightforward to get into focus.

Loading up a recent roll of Portra 400, I forgot the utmost shutter velocity on the Vitomatic II is a scorching 1/300. Notice to self: subsequent time, attempt slower movie. Unwilling to belief the previous selenium meter constructed into the digicam, I slid my Keks KM-02 gentle meter into the chilly shoe. Because it seems, the unique meter was pretty shut. I don’t suppose I ever seen greater than a half cease distinction between what the Keks instructed me and what the meter mentioned. Maybe sitting in its authentic case on a darkish shelf is what saved this one.

Utilizing the digicam is pretty easy. To load it, first open the latch on the small door on the underside. As soon as the small door is open, your entire again swings to the suitable, permitting entry to the take up spool. Curiously, Radu let me know the Vitomatic ii won’t fireplace the shutter with out movie inside. Presumably one might manipulate the sprocket which rotates because the movie is superior. I didn’t attempt. As soon as the movie is loaded and a few shutter releases and windings have been performed, the counter on the underside plate of the digicam could also be reset to “36” by urgent and turning the knurled piece beneath the dial concurrently. By the way, this counter counts backwards, from 36 to 0.

One ultimate quirk to level out about working the Vitomatic ii is the placement of the shutter velocity and aperture controls. They’re each on the lens (a set, super-sharp 50mm Skopar f/2.8) itself. And, since they don’t transfer fully independently, one should pay shut consideration to shutter velocity whereas adjusting aperture, as it’s potential to inadvertently change it, significantly when wide-open or stopped all the way in which down.

I shot a wide range of topics with that first roll; an excellent half used on a cloudy morning at Frank Monise Motors in Rancho Cucamonga, California. My pals Frank and Greg Monise’s British automotive restoration store is all the time filled with classic MGs, Triumphs and a gaggle of previous racing automobiles. I figured a classic digicam would match proper in. Capturing these footage utilizing the identical methodology I take advantage of when taking pictures Portra400 in my Leica M3 had me metering for shadows and customarily erring on the aspect of a half cease or extra overexposed.

My 1969 Merlyn Mk11a in front of a one-owner MGA.
My 1969 Merlyn Mk11a in entrance of a one-owner MGA.

Cockpit of my Merlyn Mk11a with a Lotus Super 7 project in the background.
Cockpit of my Merlyn Mk11a with a Lotus Tremendous 7 venture within the background.

The following day, eager to burn off the tip of the roll, I drove to the highest of a close-by parking construction in shiny noon gentle.

Rooftop 911, sunny day.
2017 Porsche Carrera 4S

Lastly, I took this summary shot of a pool waterfall from above.

Waterfall from above.
To say I’m happy with the outcomes can be a modest understatement. A cherished memento, which till just lately solely collected mud, is as soon as once more a trusted instrument for making lovely pictures.

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